1. European Business Prospects


    For the last few years, I have represented the EDC and the region on business development trips to Europe, typically with the support and participation of Northeast Utilities/Western Mass Electric Co and as part of delegations representing the Commonwealth and New England’s Knowledge Corridor©. My most recent visit was during November 2011. The headlines about the sovereign debt crisis and related banking sector issues gave me pause that this visit might not be productive. But the reality was exactly the opposite, as I met with more total, as well as higher quality, prospects than any other year.


    Part of the reason is that we have significantly expanded the EDC’s network of international contacts. That paid dividends this year as we received information about companies considering an entry into the U.S. market from a variety of sources, in addition to the traditional lead generation consultants with whom we have worked. Another reason is that, like in the U.S., the European corporate sector (other than banking) has rebounded from the 2008 financial crisis better and faster than the government or household sector. Companies have rebuilt their balance sheets and have cash on hand for investment. Given the headwinds on the Continent, many firms are looking at this as an excellent time to hedge their exposure to a likely European recession by entering the U.S. market or expanding their presence here.


    One gauge for how serious a company is about a U.S. investment is if, and how soon, they visit the market. On a positive note, this week I will be hosting two companies that I met in November, one Belgian and one Dutch, both of which design, manufacture and assemble products for the medical device industry. The CEO and CFO of the Belgian company are beginning their assessment of how to enter the market, but their primary goal for 2012 is to establish a presence here. I began speaking to the Dutch firm over two years ago (delayed business decision times know no international boundaries). They have started to sell their products in the U.S. and decided that they wanted to manufacture and assemble for their U.S. customers here. I found a local manufacturer that they will visit this week in the hopes of signing a deal to manufacture in western Massachusetts. This is another example of a trend that I have noted before – the convergence of our Corporate Attraction and Homefield Advantage strategies. I expect visits from several other firms during the first half of 2012.


    I want to thank a number of executives from EDC-member companies and colleges, as well as smaller company executives, who are giving their time this week to help us sell the region as the best location for these firms. Allan and I are gratified that you take supporting regional economic growth opportunities as seriously as we do.


    Mike Graney      m.graney@westernmassedc.com


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